Sanford Residents Meet Police Chief Candidates
January 16, 2013 | WMFE- Sanford residents met the top five people vying to be the city's next police chief Tuesday night.
The candidates got a taste of the intense scrutiny the police department has been under over the past year.
The top contenders for the job include one woman and four men: Miami investigator Rafael Hernandez; fellow Floridian Sandra Wilson, who leads the Clearwater Police Department; Rochester Police Director of Public Integrity George Markert; Nassau County Deputy Police Chief Kevin Canavan and Cecil Smith, who is the deputy police chief for the city of Elgin, Illinois.
After mingling with residents in a reception at Sanford City Hall, the candidates sat down for an hour and a half to answer questions about police integrity, gang violence and how to build public trust in the police force.
Allen Chapel A M E church pastor Valerie Houston said its vital the new chief reaches out to the African American community.
“I’m looking for someone with versatility, somebody who will get into the community, somebody who sees the whole town as equal”
Rochester police director of public integrity George Markert, said if he’s picked for the job, he wants to help Sanford move on from the Trayvon Martin tragedy of last February.
“I personally feel the city of Sanford should not be defined by one incident, as tragic as that incident is,” he said.
The shooting of unarmed African American teenager Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman sparked a national uproar. Sanford police chief Bill Lee lost his job following criticism of his department’s investigation of the incident. City Manager Norton Bonaparte said getting feedback from residents is an important part of hiring a new police chief.
"The main thing is building trust within the community, and therefore having the residents be part of the selection process I wanted to make sure it took place," said Bonaparte.
Bonaparte wants residents to call or email questions and suggestions about the selection process. The candidates will go through a further round of interviews Wednesday, and a final choice should be made by early next month.